The Pinocchio Factor

How Microsoft is like the fairy tale.

Auntie is not, as you may have guessed, the parental type. Between the skydiving excursions, the romantic trips with Fabio to foreign capitols (where I’m usually stuck in dreary conference rooms with Fortune 500 execs while he’s out seeing the sights, the bum), and the late-night network rewiring sessions, there’s not really much of a home environment for little ones around here. But that doesn’t stop me from stealing my sister’s kids occasionally, so I can spoil them rotten and team them to play FPS games.

Anyhow, a few weeks ago I had the smaller of the kidlets snuggled up next to me and was reading to her from Pinocchio. After all, terrorizing the kids is a privilege reserved for aunts rather than parents. Then I came upon one of the classic passages in the story: “At this third lie, his nose became longer than ever, so long that he could not even turn around. If he turned to the right, he knocked it against the bed or into the windowpanes; if he turned to the left, he struck the walls or the door; if he raised it a bit, he almost put the Fairy’s eyes out.”

With that, Em ended up staring off into space. Eventually, a childish punch on the arm brought me out of my sudden fugue, but I had reason for being distracted; I’d suddenly realized who the corporate presence of Microsoft was reminding me of these days.

Consider, if you will, the timeline of Windows “Longhorn.” When word of this new version of Windows first started coming out of Redmond in mid-2002, it was pitched as a uniform client and server release of Windows due out in 2005. In the two years since then, the story has changed a bit. We’ve learned of the work being done in SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 to prepare for Longhorn; those releases themselves have slipped half a year or more from their original optimistic release dates. Industry analysts are increasingly putting Longhorn itself into 2006, and a few of them have even said 2007.

Meanwhile, has anyone noticed that there’s not much talk of the server version of Longhorn anymore? All we’ve seen demonstrated is the client version, and Microsoft is strangely quiet about the plan to unify the Windows client and server releases. In fact, what little has been said about servers recently has been about Blackcomb, apparently a follow-up release sometime after Longhorn. Instead, there’s a flood of stuff being slipstreamed into Windows Server 2003 (the so-called “out-of-band” feature releases) to keep those of us on the server side happy.

I don’t know about you, but I sure see a lot of Pinocchio in this story. Of course, in the original story, the marionette’s troubles didn’t end with his enormous nose. He spent considerable time as a donkey, braying loudly but being understood by no one, before the ultimate happy ending in which he repents and becomes a little boy at last. Life doesn’t necessarily imitate art, mind you. But if it does, it will be the utter inability of Microsoft to announce a realistic ship date that convinces some to stop listening to the Redmond gang entirely.

But don’t get too depressed by all of this. There’s a silver lining for those of us trying to keep our MCSE credentials current. If Longhorn won’t ship until 2006 or 2007, then we have to wait a couple more years for a new Windows server, and then it takes a couple years for the Learning Group to create the new certification exams…well, you might not have to upgrade your MCSE until 2010 or so. That’s a comfortably long time to enjoy the fruits of your test-taking to date. Heck, by 2010, you could be dead or working exclusively on Linux systems (yes, I know some of you don’t think there’s a difference).

As for me, I’m going to take advantage of the breather in Windows releases to spend some more time with my nieces and nephews. You’ll have to excuse me now; I’m teaching the 12-year-old how to play the snare drum.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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